Support for legal action over sea wall

A fight for compensation by the Dunedin City Council over flaws in the design of the St Clair sea wall could end up as a courtroom battle.

•  DCC Budget 2012-2013

Councillors at yesterday's council pre-draft budget meetings agreed to support initiating legal action against the company responsible for the project's flawed design.

That move came despite a council staff report to yesterday's meeting warning the chances of a successful outcome from any legal action were "uncertain at best", and recommending staff focus instead on reaching a negotiated settlement.

The sea wall was completed in 2004, but repeated battering by heavy seas had caused its ramp and stairs - leading from the Esplanade at St Clair down to the beach - to fail six times since then.

The structure was designed by council consultant Duffill Watts and King, but the company had since merged with Coomes Consulting in Australia to become CPG, which had not accepted liability for the failings.

The report to yesterday's meeting, by council community and recreation services manager Mick Reece, outlined a $250,000 plan to fix the sea wall, involving removal of the ramp and three of four flights of stairs from the most exposed part of the wall.

Court action to recoup costs was expected to cost up to $150,000, and Mr Reece's report recommended staff continue to seek a settlement and the "assistance" of CPG staff in repairing the structure.

However, Cr Colin Weatherall instead called for legal action to be initiated, saying his advice was the council's position would be strengthened by the move.

"We need to negotiate hard. We are all aware and concerned about the history [of the project]."

Councillors supported the move even after operations general manager Tony Avery said the council intended to use the same company during repairs.

The company now had "completely different" staff following the takeover, and they were willing to help resolve the issues, he said.



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